Justice for #MackenzieFierceton & All Survivors and FGLI Students

University of Pennsylvania, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania

An image of Mackenzie Fierceton
Robbie Lawrence

As Friends and Supporters of Mackenzie Fierceton, Penn students, Alumni, and Survivors, we demand that:

Demands Regarding Mackenzie

  • Fire Wendy White

  • immediate removal of Beth Winkelstein from her administrative positions, terminate teaching privileges, and launch an independent investigation to determine whether there is cause for her dismissal as a tenured faculty member

  • Amy Gutmann and Wendell Pritchett each publicly publish a formal letter of condemnation for how Mackenzie was treated under their tenure

  • Require a public apology from Dean Sara Bachman on behalf of the SP2 Administration

  • Remove any sanctions from Mackenzie’s internal record


Institution-Wide Demands

  • The Penn Office of the President – Wendell Pritchett specifically – writes a public formal apology to survivors of abuse for their role in causing or perpetuating further harm.

  • The Penn Office of the President writes a public formal apology to First-Generation/Low Income students for their role in perpetuating harm.

  • Penn closes the Caster building and builds or assigns a new building that is safe and accessible. One example of how this could be accomplished is through a funding campaign or restructuring the Penn funding distribution so that SP2 is allocated additional funds from the general donation pool.

  • Penn provides a detailed emergency plan and evaluates buildings across campus for stretcher accessibility, emergency resources, and ADA requirements.

  • A review of Office of Student Conduct (OSC) procedures and Charter of Student Conduct, doing so with equal input from undergraduate/graduate students, faculty, and non-Penn affiliated trauma-informed professionals

  • Penn further invests in sexual violence prevention and resources to support survivors (these demands are from https://www.cafsapenn.com/demandsz

    • A non-Penn affiliated reporting service is implemented with options to report anonymously and be connected to survivors who have been harmed by the same person(s) (e.g. Callisto)

    • More accessible formal reporting is created, beyond the Bias Incident Reporting Form, for incidents that do not include sexual violence.

    • Sexual harassment, trauma-sensitive practices, and cultural diversity trainings are mandated for all university-affiliated professors. The names of individuals who have received such trainings should be published.

“Mackenzie Fierceton was championed as a former foster youth who had overcome an abusive childhood and won a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Then the University of Pennsylvania accused her of lying,” and withheld her MSW degree.

Mackenzie Fierceton is a former undergraduate and Master’s in Social Work student at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) who was set to graduate in May 2021. Throughout her childhood, Mackenzie was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused by her biological family and her biological mother’s boyfriend. As a consequence of this abuse, she was eventually placed in foster care during high school. While criminal charges were filed against one of her abusers, the charges were ultimately dropped despite substantial evidence and great objection from the authorities who investigated. This is further detailed in Rachel Aviv’s New Yorker article. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/04/04/mackenzie-fierceton-rhodes-scholarship-university-of-pennsylvania

Penn's administration has been aware of Mackenzie’s status as a survivor throughout her time at Penn. Yet, Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein, General Counsel Wendy White, and the Office of Student Conduct have collaborated with abusive members of her biological family in seeking to further harm her.

Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein, prompted by anonymous emails sent after Mackenzie won a Rhodes Scholarship, conducted an abusive investigation in violation of University norms and principles, including prodding Mackenzie with intimate questions about her experience of child abuse. She then made false allegations against Mackenzie to the Rhodes Trust, in collaboration with General Counsel Wendy White. Those charges have been refuted but, more than a year later, there has been no correction, retraction or apology. Interim President Wendell Pritchett and former President Amy Gutmann were informed that the accusations were false and of Mackenzie’s malicious treatment by Winkelstein and White. They were also supplied with supporting evidence, but refused to correct the record or to stop Mackenzie’s continued abuse.

General Counsel Wendy White, and the Office of Student Conduct collaborated with Mackenzie’s abusers in bringing unsubstantiated and readily refuted accusations against her. They did so without informing either Mackenzie or her Faculty Advisor, Rogers Smith, that the process was tainted by unacknowledged complicity with abusers. Both have objected to this concealed complicity. Also in violation of University policies and procedures, the University has withheld Mackenzie’s MSW degree for nearly a year.

There is no excuse for the failures of investigation, integrity, and basic human decency on the part of these administrators.

There is not a conclusive explanation for this malicious behavior. However, Mackenzie was an established student organizer while at Penn and, most importantly, she uncovered the wrongful death of a classmate. During one of her MSW classes in the basement of Caster, the social work building, Mackenzie had a seizure, and it took medical personnel nearly an hour to extract her because the basement is inaccessible to emergency equipment. Mackenzie later discovered that another student, Cameron Driver, had died 16 months earlier due to Caster’s lack of accessibility. Mackenzie gathered information regarding the circumstances of Cameron’s death and then turned over her findings to his widow. Shortly before the University’s abuse of Mackenzie began, Cameron’s widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit rooted in the information Mackenzie had uncovered. Of further note, then Penn President, Amy Gutmann, was being vetted and subsequently nominated for the position of Ambassador to Germany throughout the University’s abuse of Mackenzie. She has now been confirmed and is serving as the Ambassador to Germany.

Regardless of the reasons for the University’s reprehensible abuse of Mackenzie, justice must be served.

Petition by
FriendsOfMackenzie Fierceton
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

To: University of Pennsylvania, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania
From: [Your Name]

We the undersigned demand-

DEMANDS REGARDING MACKENZIE

Fire Wendy White and Beth Winkelstein

Amy Gutmann and Wendell Pritchett each publicly publish a formal letter of
condemnation for how Mackenzie was treated under their tenure

Require a public apology from Irene Wong, Phyllis Solomon, and Jacqueline Corcoran, the first School of Social Policy and Practice faculty panel, and the unnamed members of the second panel

Require a public apology from Dean Sara Bachman on behalf of the SP2 Administration

Remove any sanctions from Mackenzie’s internal record

INSTITUTION-WIDE DEMANDS

The Penn Office of the President – Wendell Pritchett specifically – writes a public formal apology to survivors of abuse for their role in causing or perpetuating further harm.

The Penn Office of the President writes a public formal apology to First-Generation/Low Income students for their role in perpetuating harm.

Penn closes the Caster building and builds or assigns a new building that is safe and accessible. One example of how this could be accomplished is through a funding campaign or restructuring the Penn funding distribution so that SP2 is allocated additional funds from the general donation pool.

Penn provides a detailed emergency plan and evaluates buildings across campus for stretcher accessibility, emergency resources, and ADA requirements.

Penn further invests in sexual violence prevention and resources to support survivors (these demands are from https://www.cafsapenn.com/demands)
- A non-Penn affiliated reporting service is implemented with options to report anonymously and be connected to survivors who have been harmed by the same person(s) (e.g. Callisto)
- More accessible formal reporting is created, beyond the Bias Incident Reporting Form, for incidents that do not include sexual violence.
- Sexual harassment, trauma-sensitive practices, and cultural diversity trainings are mandated for all university-affiliated professors. The names of individuals who have received such trainings should be published.